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From 'Maf the Dog' to 'Moonlight Mile' and Mark Twain, a look at book editor's 2010 faves

I read a lot of books — somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 a year. Most of them I read for duty's sake, but many of those are also a pleasure. • And a rare few are great pleasures — books I would be thrilled to read even if reading were not my job, books I know I will remember and maybe even read again for fun. Here are those rare few for 2010, in no particular order and in their own idiosyncratic categories. If you have a bookstore gift card burning a hole in your pocket, consider them.

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Best novel, or linked short story collection, or, who cares, I loved this book

A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf) by Jennifer Egan is a brilliant, surprising mashup of exuberance and poignancy, youth and aging, love and loss, past and future and lots of rock 'n' roll.

Best book about the Florida behind the postcards, fiction division

Citrus County (McSweeney's) by John Brandon, who was born in Bradenton and raised in New Port Richey, is a darkly comic tale of young love gone seriously awry in the crumbling suburbs. Nonfiction division: Exiles in Eden: Life Among the Ruins of Florida's Great Recession (Henry Holt & Co.) by Tampa writer Paul Reyes, right, explores the collapse of the housing market through the experiences of a crew that trashes out foreclosed houses, as well as through historical context.

Best real-life thriller

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Crown) by Rebecca Skloot is the amazing story of a woman whose cells, gathered without her knowledge as she was dying of cancer in 1951, have been instrumental in almost every kind of medical research imaginable. Skloot also tells the harrowing tale of Lacks' survivors. Runnerup: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin (Doubleday) by Hampton Sides, in which the author takes a story whose ending we all know and makes it read like a breathless crime novel.

Best crime fiction

A four-way tie, among Djibouti (William Morrow) by Elmore Leonard, I'd Know You Anywhere (William Morrow) by Laura Lippman, Moonlight Mile (William Morrow) by Dennis Lehane and The Reversal (Little, Brown) by Michael Connelly.

Best really good novel even though it never could have completely lived up to its hype

Freedom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Jonathan Franzen.

Best scary hilarious futuristic satire with a tender heart

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, and I just hope a decade from now we still see this book as fiction.

Best audiobook about a rock star read by a movie star

Life (Hachette Audio) by Keith Richards, read by Johnny Depp, and by singer-songwriter Joe Hurley and by Rollling Stones co-founder Richards himself — it takes all three since this boisterous, engaging memoir fills 20 CDs. Who knew Keef remembered so much?

Best unexpectedly successful comeback

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (University of California Press), a scholarly doorstop that startled its publisher by flying off shelves real and virtual. Twain's best work? No, but what a huge delight it is to hear that inimitable voice again a century after his death.

Best last act

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Knopf) by Stieg Larsson. Wow, and alas.

Best surprise

The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Andrew O'Hagan sounded in synopsis — a novel about Monroe's last days, narrated by her Maltese dog — like it could be hopelessly corny, but it turned out to be one of the most charming, smart and literary books I read all year.

From 'Maf the Dog' to 'Moonlight Mile' and Mark Twain, a look at book editor's 2010 faves 12/21/10 [Last modified: Sunday, December 26, 2010 12:36pm]
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